Friday, June 30, 2006

Room 1005: Four Images of a Woman

While in Tokyo (at the Hilton where they were staying), the Beatles spent their time in between concert appearances creating a collaborative work of art that was not musical in nature. Considered to be the only painting created by all four of them, the finished work was entitled Four Images of a Woman, and was presented to the president of their Japanese fan club as a gift. According to Robert Whitaker, the four had never appeared so relaxed as they did while painting together.
"I never saw them calmer, more contented, than at this time. They were working on something that let their personalities come out. I think it's the only work they ever did together that has nothing to do with music. They'd stop, go and do a concert, and then it was, 'Let's get back to the picture.'....

There were no girls around, no groupies, they were all phoning their wives and girlfriends, listening to Revolver, and smoking a joint or two while they were painting." Robert Whitaker

I've always enjoyed this moment in the Beatles career. They were in the middle of one of their most pivotal, controversial years as a group. They had created the revolutionary album Revolver, embarked on a tour which illustrated their lack of enthusiasm for the trappings of Beatlemania and touring in general, will soon accidentally snub Imelda Marcos, and would also face their greatest challenge yet--the "Bigger than Jesus" uproar in the U.S. With the experimental music they were creating in the studio, it must have been very difficult to take the stage and sing the same songs night after night; many of the songs were far removed from what they were creating at the time.

These pictures illustrate the calm within the eye of the hurricane. They also show us brotherhood and camaraderie among four friends.

Coming soon: Celebrating the 40th anniversary--screen captures from their Budakon concerts.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Backstage at the Budokan Hall

This rather unusual photograph of John was taken by Robert Whitaker backstage at the Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan, probably July 1,1966 (the so-called "white suits" performance; the previous evening's attire consisted of "dark suits"). Whitaker had been presented a Nikon camera with a wide-angle lens, a new invention at that time; hence the unual nature of the shots he captured of The Beatles during the Tokyo visit.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Screen Caps from German Television Special

As promised, here are some screen captures from the second Munich concert, videotaped for television broadcast. I also added a backstage picture of Ringo.

An Essen show ticketstub that was up for auction at this past weekend; I've included a picture of the stub here.

I wish I knew German; there is a terrific documentary about The Beatles called "Damals in Hamburg" that traces their Hamburg days, including interviews with significant German people in the Beatles' story. Since it's all in German, I can't understand a word, but I've watched in numerous times anyway! I can tell by the visuals that understanding the narrator and interviewees would be a real treat. If anyone out there has translated the documentary, please let me know.

(Upcoming blog posts will include information and photos from the Beatles ill-fated Far East tour of 1966 and other events in Beatles history 40 years ago this year.)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

1966: Munich * Essen * Hamburg

Forty years ago yesterday, The Beatles kicked off their 1966 tour at the Circus-Krone-Bau in Munich, West Germany. After a lengthy absence from playing live while recording their groundbreaking masterpiece Revolver, The Beatles were relatively out of practice. Their second show in Munich was videotaped for a later television broadcast, and fortunately it survives and is in circulation today. Personally, I don't think their performance is a horrible as critics maintain--it isn't perfect by any means, but "Nowhere Man" (shown in the Anthology) is the definite highlight.

The opening acts' performances were also presevered on video tape. Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers (overwrought, think "Sounds Incorporated"), German band The Rattles, and Peter and Gordon warm up the crowd for the main attraction. The Rattles really stand out from the pack, even upstaging Peter and Gordon to me. They're a German garage band with an "Animals meet the Small Faces" sound. They're quite energetic and engaging, whereas Cliff Bennett is a bore. Peter and Gordon showcase their harmonies on their famous McCartney-penned ballads; at this point in 1966, Gordon appears to be fashioning his look after that of John Lennon.

When The Beatles take the stage to open with "Rock and Roll Music" John doesn't appear to be singing at full volume, perhaps out of nerves. Despite the low vocals, the song is solid. There is an awkward segue when they begin the intro to "She's A Woman"--the song is completely edited out, and goes right into "Baby's In Black" (which is very good, by the way). Paul and John waltz back from their shared microphone during the solo. Paul takes the spotlight for a rushed "Yesterday" (sounds fine), followed by the highlight of "Nowhere Man". Before Paul begins "I'm Down" for the finale, John mocks him about messing up the lyrics. The picture above where John is pointing and talking to Paul as George laughs was taken at that moment. John's comments obviously distract Paul, and he completely wrecks the entire song! He mangles all the lyrics to the point where the broadcasters edited out the last bit of the song.

After the concert, the Beatles boarded a train to Essen for their next German appearance. After Essen, they returned to Hamburg for the first time since 1962, and were met by a barage of interviewers asking ridiculous questions, marring a reunion with old friends Astrid Kirchherr and Bettina Derlien (Star-Club bar maid). It's easy to see why touring became such a burden to the Beatles--I can't believe they had to be subjected to such stupidity and humiliation as they were during all the press conferences over the years.

The pictures above were taken backstage and on stage at the Circus-Krone-Bau. The person sharing a laugh and taking a close up photo of John is none other than famed Butcher cover photog and Lennon friend Bob Whitaker.

I particularly like the picture of George as they're about to take the stage, where one can see Brian Epstein top left, standing on tiptoe to look over the crowd.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

From Trini: Avedon Photos, Part 2

Trini, who runs the beautiful Beatles blog (gotta love alliteration) for the extremely popular "Breakfast With The Beatles" radio show was kind enough to send me these two Avedon photo "upgrades". Please visit her blog, which is filled with some of the best Beatles photos on the web. As Trini pointed out, Richard Avedon was able to capture that spark in the Beatles' eyes like no other photographer. His use of light and shadow enhanced the pictures immensely. (Thanks, Trini!)

The Richard Avedon Photos

Legendary photographer Richard Avedon was commissioned to photograph the Beatles for the January 9, 1968, issue of LOOK magazine. One by one George, Ringo, John and Paul (in that order) filed into the Chelsea penthouse studio for the session. A sink full of flowers, 12 live doves, and de rigueur costumes awaited them as Richard's 15 year old son played Jefferson Airplane records in the background to enhance the mood. These historic photographs are the psychedelic portraits now mostly associated with the 1 album and cd (the deluxe vinyl edition includes 4 large individual photographs). Avedon also took black and white portraits and group photos, one of which was a 4 page spread in the LOOK issue, another which became the artwork for the Capitol Love Songs LP. The psychedelic portraits and b&w group photo could be ordered in poster form from LOOK, too.

Here are some portraits of John from this session that did not appear in the magazine. The large photo at the top is one of my all-time favorites of John--it was recently up for auction along with portraits of the other Beatles from this session as a part of the Apple vault. I have the picture as my avatar at the forum. The contact sheet came from the back of the Bag Records release of volume 33 of the Lost Lennon Tapes. (Click to enlarge.)

I am currently working on an essay exploring Lennon's views on mysticism and metaphysics, and how these emerged in his songwriting throughout his career. When it is complete, I will be posting it here. I would certainly appreciate your feedback to any entry.

As I type this entry I am listening to The Soft Machine, Volume 2--one of my favorite psychedelic albums from an intelligent, experimental and versitile group. If you haven't heard them, check them out--only if you like free-form jazz and Syd Barrett. It's an aquired taste...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hell's Kitchen NYC, 1974

The June 2004 issue of MOJO included these rare and unseen photographs of John Lennon taken by David Gahr on October 24, 1974, in Hell's Kitchen, NYC. I also scanned Gahr's comments and the brief article by Phill Kalli that introduced the piece. (Click pictures to enlarge.) I have a massive subway-style poster of a common photo of John from these sessions entitled "Working Class Hero" hanging above my bed. It's interesting that the Elvis flasher button he wore that day was altered to a Walls and Bridges promotional "Listen To This Button" for the poster.

Which leads me to one of my favorite Lennon bootleg sets--Listen To This... on the infamous VigOtone label (RIP). This three disc set chronicles the Record Plant rehearsals, alternate takes, rough mixes, and control-room monitor mixes from John's "lost weekend" masterpiece, Walls and Bridges. My favorite disc from this set is disc three, which showcases John's home demos for the album. The songs are often better with just John and his guitar--they are more intimate and personal. (Same thing for the amazing Mind Games home demos!) Perhaps some were a bit over-produced in the studio, but it's still a phenomenal album all in all. It amazes me that John did not have confidence in his voice, a voice I think was the greatest of the rock and roll era. He could belt out those pot-boiler rockers one minute, and then soften his voice for a touching ballad the next.

(Ringo is on the Tonight Show as I type, singing "What Goes On" with the All-Starr Band, and it sounds great!)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Birthday Greetings

I forgot to post this earlier. This picture was included in the weekly email from Beatles' Collectors Store.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Many Years From Now Is Today

The press has thoroughly enjoyed having "When I'm Sixty-Four" to reference recently--almost as much as they have enjoyed ripping Heather Mills to shreds. This is an extremely difficult time for Paul, and I feel badly for him, going through all this in the public eye. A shadow hangs over this significant birthday, but I hope the party he'll be having with his children will bring him much happiness. Here's to many more years of music, concerts, books, paintings, and activism from our much-loved Sir Paul.

I thought I'd post some pictures from Paul's life, ranging from baby pictures with his brother Mike, smouldering portraits from the Beatle years (1965 and 1968, respectively), an embrace with his Lovely Linda, and a picture taken just this past Tuesday in New York (courtesy of TheChief at Though he looks sad in the recent picture, he is still very handsome and youthful--it's hard to believe he's sixty-four. (Love the clothes.)

In Poor Taste

As a long-time subscriber to Uncut magazine, what I thought was one of the most intelligent music and film magazines out of the UK, I was very disappointed when the July 2006 issue arrived on my doorstep. Two months ago, Uncut changed their format and look to compete with Q, or other magazines of that ilk--read, "not as smart". Now they have this pointless column listing the 10 worst songs of a particular genre on one page, and when you flip to the next page, there's a list of the 10 best songs of that same genre (just more of those stupid ranking lists polluting magazines these days). The topic of the lists this month is "Protest Songs." Their third worst protest song is "Give Peace A Chance", which in and of itself is fine. I'm all for free-speech and opinions, etc., so hating that song is not an issue. The issue is with their commentary about the song. It consists of two sentences: "That MC (I don't type out his name). Was he really so bad?"

I threw down the magazine and began pacing through the house ranting and raving about the idiots at Uncut stooping so low as to joke about the murder of one of the most beloved artists in history. They could have joked about Yoko, Lord knows that happens all the time; they could have joked about John & Yoko's political views, peace campaign--you name it. They did not have to use hyperbole to illustrate how much they hate that song-- insinuating that John deserved to die for writing and recording it! There is no humour to be found in that. John's murderer took a father and husband from his family and a man who inspired so much happiness, love, and beauty from the rest of us.

Do you think that Uncut's comment was in poor taste? What would you do if you were a subscriber--would you cancel your subscription, write a well-thought out letter that doesn't make you sound like a crazy John fan, or what? Would you just overlook it? Please leave me some comments and offer some advice. I know I won't be renewing my subscription next year.

Friday, June 16, 2006

First New Issue of the Beatles Book, Oct. 1982

After 6 years of reprints of the original '60s issues, the first new issue of the Beatles Book Monthly was released in October of 1982. Editor Johnny Dean promised many unseen pictures from their archives in future issues. (The promise proved true.) This beautiful photo of John, taken by Leslie Bryce, was on the back cover of the issue and also offered in poster form.

(Come back later for a post about my seething anger at UNCUT magazine, and a review of a new Beatles cover band in Knoxville, TN.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Your Suggestions, Please

If you have any specific requests regarding screen captures, pictures, or subjects to be addressed, please feel free to leave comments here, or you may contact me via email. If I have access to what is requested, I would gladly post it in the blog. I would like for this blog to be interactive, with other Beatles fans and music lovers contributing their ideas. Thanks for reading, and I hope you are enjoying yourself so far!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Margate, July 1963: Beatles for Summer pt. 2

Beatles Book Monthly photographer Leslie Bryce captured The Beatles' swimming pool antics at their Margate hotel in July of 1963. The Beatles played six consecutive nights at the Winter Gardens, Fort Crescent, Margate, Kent--July 8th through the 13th. Notice a freezing Paul on the diving board and John wrapping his arms around himself to keep warm. (Click photos to enlarge.)